Nah Poeh Meng (The Continuous Path) | THE magazine - July 30, 2013

The Continuous Path—on view at the Poeh Museum, in Pojoaque, portrays the Pueblo worldview of their history through both traditional and contemporary art, sculpture, historic reproductions, stories.

Now: Time of Reflection and Deciding Where We Go

An illuminating installation—The Continuous Path—on view at the Poeh Museum, in Pojoaque, portrays the Pueblo worldview of their history through contemporary art and sculpture, historic reproductions, and both traditional and contemporary stories. The installation is portrayed as the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The artwork is exhibited in an accessible context—there are no cases, no glass separating visitors from the art. Individual pieces are not labeled, putting less emphasis on the individual artist, and focusing the viewer’s attention on the overall themes. The exhibition highlights the work of numerous Pueblo artists, including the figurative sculptures of Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo) and painted murals by Marcellus Medina (Zia Pueblo).

Tracks by Roxanne Swentzell

In the darkness there was a feeling that we wanted to be. To exist. And so we did. A beautiful world we were born into. And we could see it. And we could taste it. And we could touch it. And it felt good. The days became seasons, and we did too. All the seasons were different and had things to give. The old ones to the young ones, we filled up the space with our colors and tastes. Our hearts filled with the great mystery of it all. We had grown from the earth into the Clay People. There was also the Bird People, the Fish People, the Corn People, and even the Insect People. A large extended family leaving tracks in the world—a story of our journey.

And the tracks walked into the summertime and we felt strong. We had learned many skills. We felt loved by all the beauty that was around us. It filled us up so much that we spilled over. And expressions of it emerged. Songs came to us and sang out of us, and they made our hearts happy and drums came to beat for us and our feet wanted to dance, so we did. Fibers from Cotton People wanted to join in so we wove them into cloth so we could wear them close to us. Our mother gave us clay from her belly and we made vessels that resembled her. On these little bowl mothers, we painted the patterns of the world around us. Father Sky warmed the plant people with the sun and they grew tall and strong. The corn maidens came in all colors and blessed the people. And the people remembered the blessing, and corn became part of the prayer. And we were very thankful.

Spring: Time of Winter’s Thaw

In the time of the dying season, far away, came another people. These people came with crosses and some wore metal. They did not see what the Clay People or the Bear People or the Corn maidens saw. They didn’t understand that the Cloud People and the Fish People were close relatives. They didn’t understand that the Worm People and the Bean People were in love. They didn’t see that the world was much, much bigger than themselves. They saw only themselves. I think they were very unhappy, these Metal People. They must’ve been hurt very badly where they came from to leave and come here. They were so miserable that they hated the world and beat on it. They tried to make everything like themselves. The Metal People’s sadness swept over the world. They said that our songs and our dances were “evil.” We didn’t know what “evil” was, but when they would say it, it didn’t feel good. And the Clay People cried because it hurt. This went on for a long time ‘til the Clay People wove a thought together and decided to fight back. I think they got that idea from the Mountain Lion People, who knew how to fight back after they cried. They asked the Mountain Lion People to give them strength. They asked the Bear People to give them strength. They asked the Eagle and Turkey and Beaver People to give them strength. They asked for all who loved them to give them strength, and they chased the Metal People out of their sight.

Now the Clay People wondered if they could go back to the way things had been before the Metal People came. They tried, but something had changed. The footsteps wouldn’t go backwards. They had breathed in the Metal People’s world and could not forget what happened. As time went on, more peoples came— pink ones, black ones, hairy ones, and yes, the Metal People came back too. This time, the Clay People knew they would take it all in because that’s what living is - breathing in and out. So we kept breathing. We watched the world change. And change and change. It seemed like we had lost ourselves in all the change. We seemed faded like the Buffalo People, the Horny Toad People, and the Rain People.

Summer: Time of Creativity and Growth

Sometimes when all the noises of cars and televisions and lights go to sleep, I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. I hear a distant drum beat inviting a song to come join it. I feel my breath as the wind gathering up the clouds. Thunder breaks the sky open and the rain mixes with my tears, falling to the ground, soaking deep into the earth. Can you smell it? Wet clay under my feet, between my toes. I walk on, leaving tracks in the mud.

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